SIRP officials and some of the students during the IDGC event in Enugu State
By Tony Adibe
As the world commemorates the 10th anniversary of the International Day of the Girl Child (IDGC), female students in Enugu State have tasked the State Government on the need to quickly domestic the National Policy on safety, security and violence-free schools in Nigeria as part of the 2022 celebration.
This was part of the statement read on behalf of the entire female students in the state by a Senior Secondary three student and Deputy Senior Prefect (DSP) of Solid Foundation Secondary, Amechi Awkunanaw, near Enugu, Miss Vivian Igwe, when officials of Society for Improvement of the Rural People (SIRP) a Non- Commercial and Non-Governmental Organisation visited the school to mark the IDGC with the students. SIRP, an Enugu-based NGO, is supported by the Ford Foundation.
NewsBits reports that, the key objectives of the National Policy, among others, include creating a safe learning environment for school users: pupils, students, children with disability, vulnerable pupils and students especially girls. The policy also is to highlight specific actions to be taken by different stakeholders within the Safe schools Declaration (SSD) framework towards school safety and security as well as to develop procedures within the school to be followed in addressing cases of suspected abuse, among others.
The students have, therefore, in line with the national policy, demanded that the Enugu State government to “end all forms of violence which will focus on all forms of violence in schools, broadly grouped as physical, emotional (psychological, sexual, gender-based and negligence; End all forms of conflict which will focus on the prevention and reduction of conflict hazards like the use of schools, civil unrest, abduction/kidnapping and child recruitment;
“Ensure safety of school facilities, which will focus on the proper dissemination of safety and security policies to staffs, learners and all affiliates of education; Mitigate the impact of natural hazards which will focus on amelioration and prevention of natural hazards like floods, windstorms and wild fires, and end all forms of hazards, which will focus on the reduction of every day health hazards (epidemics, pandemics, malaria, malnutrition, drowning, playground accidents, dangerous materials,” etc.
The students assured that they would submit their statement to the concerned authorities such as the representative of the ministry of education, representative of Enugu State Basic Education Board, coordinator of Civil Society Action Coalition of Education for All (CSACEFA) and the media to drive home their points.
Also speaking, another SS3 student, Miss Favour Chikanmso Ani, said the IDGC was significant because it is on this day that “we get to appreciate all young girls who lighten up our world,” adding that “an educated and skilled woman is far more effective in preventing infant mortality, is proven to take care of the house more sophisticatedly, and hence contributed more to society than an uneducated, unskilled, socially abused woman.”
Emphasising that the IDGC worked to eliminate deep-rooted gender-based issues, Ani said that deeply entrenched issues and problematic mindsets that have been passed on for generations have made gender-based discrimination and oppression threateningly common in every household particularly in Nigeria and indeed, Enugu State. “IDGC seeks to eliminate the tragic predicaments of little girls around the world and indeed in Nigeria,” Ani stated.
She further stated: “Celebrating this day internationally gives us young school girls of Enugu State, a platform to raise our voice and demand equality, of rights, education and health. We specifically as part of this year’s celebration demand that Enugu State adopts for implementation the “National Policy on Safety, Security and Violence-free School.”
In his key-note speech, the Executive Director, Society for the Improvement of Rural People (SIRP), Dr. Chris Ugwu said that within the last ten years of declaring the IDGC, there has been an increased attention on issues that matter to girls amongst governments, policy makers, and the general public, and more opportunities for girls to have their voices heard on global stage.
In spite of the level of awareness, Dr. Ugwu said that investments in girls’ rights remained limited and girls continued to confront myriads of challenges to fulfill their potential. He recalled that in 1995 at the World Conference on Women in Beijing, countries unanimously adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing the rights of not only women but girls.
“The Beijing Declaration is the first to specifically call out girls’ rights. On December 19, 2011, United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world. (This year is the 10th Anniversary)
“Girls around the world continue to face unprecedented challenges to their education, their physical and mental wellness, and the protections needed for a life without violence,” according to Dr. Ugwu, who quickly added that the COVID-19 pandemic worsened existing burdens on girls around the world and worn away important gains made over the last decade.
He said: “Son preference, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment, molestation and abuse, no inheritance rights and all sorts of gender discrimination on the account of cultural norms and practices, continue to affect the rights and dignity of our girls.”
He emphasized that the International Day of the Girl Child focuses attention on the need to address these challenges and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.
The Executive Director added that the Adolescent girls have the right to a “safe, free, quality and inclusive education, right to healthy life, especially, during these critical formative years, right to reproductive choices, etc. If effectively supported during the adolescent years, girls have the potential to change the world – both as the empowered girls of today and as tomorrow’s mothers, workers, entrepreneurs, mentors, household heads, political leaders etc. An investment in realizing the power of adolescent girls upholds their rights today and promises a more equitable and prosperous future.”
He said that girls are “proving they are unstoppable,” stressing that girls are also “breaking boundaries and barriers posed by stereotypes and exclusion, including those directed at children with disabilities and those living in marginalized communities.”
According to him, “As entrepreneurs, innovators and initiators of global movements, girls are creating a world that is relevant for them and future generations. Every day, girls are tackling issues like child marriage, inequality in education, sexual and gender-based violence, climate and environmental injustice, and inequitable access to healthcare, poor representation in leadership space, etc” He added: “Let’s encourage, support and protect our Girls. Now is the Time!”
He explained that the vision of his group “is for every girl to have access to resources, support, and love to achieve her potential. We know that girls’ programs can play a pivotal role in supporting girls’ critical-thinking skills and self-confidence. We also know that girls’ programs can help to deconstruct the many pressures and realities that are often unaddressed in their lives – like relational violence, poverty, childhood negligence and trauma, etc.”
He insisted: “We elicit the support of all government and sub-national governments in Nigeria to adopt Nigeria’s National Policy on Safety, Security and Violence-Free Schools in Nigeria.”